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For Whom the Book Tolls by Laura Gail Black

With as many cozy mysteries as I’ve read, I sometimes feel that there are no more surprises. Poison in the tea? Read it. A man murdering his brother over a dirty land deal? Read it. The main character foolishly cornering the villain in an isolated place during the penultimate chapter? Yeah, definitely read it.

So when an author offers up something unique within the first chapter? I know I’m settling in for a special book.

Laura Gail Black surprised me. A lot.

While For Whom the Book Tolls has all the hallmarks of a traditional cozy, it feels completely fresh. Jenna Quinn, leaving behind some pretty serious problems, arrives in Hokes Folly, North Carolina with the intention of staying with her uncle while she sorts out her life. Black expertly lays the ground for Jenna’s personal problems, and they feel real. She’s obviously experienced some trauma—even before a murder occurs—and it makes her an incredibly sympathetic character. From the first pages, I cared about her, and that’s a testament to Black’s ability to conjure up believable characters.

Unfortunately, this is a cozy, and that means danger lurks around every corner. After her first night in her new residence, she finds her uncle dead at the bottom of a staircase. Making matters worse, her inheritance, including her uncle’s bookshop and large insurance policy payout, put her as the main suspect in his death. Thankfully, Jenna isn’t the type of sleuth to run straight into mindless investigating and unnecessary chances. No, she wants to clear her name, but her generally balanced temperament keeps her from more dangerous risks. Even so, the mystery itself remains compelling, and Black deftly balances submersing Jenna into the case while also running her new business.

It helps that Black has populated Jenna’s surrounding with the usual cast of cozy denizens. Overly suspicious police. Neighbors with secrets. Most importantly, new friends that drop in and lighten the mood at just the right time. Yet there’s the hint of a gritty veneer over Hokes Folly. Though Black drops in plenty of laughs in this otherwise idyllic community, the danger never fully abates, making one of the few cozies I’ve read where the heroine’s safety doesn’t feel guaranteed.

Somehow, Black has managed all the traditional trademarks of the cozy, and yet things never feel cutesy. No, this is a real mystery with consequences that just happens to be an awful lot of fun. This is as perfect as a series debut gets.

Title: For Whom the Book Tolls
Series: An Antique Bookshop Mystery #1
Author: Laura Gail Black
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Publication Date: August 11, 2020
Classification: Cozy Mystery

Black’s Website | Publisher’s Page

Note: I received a free ARC of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.

10 responses to “For Whom the Book Tolls by Laura Gail Black”

  1. Marianne Maurer Avatar
    Marianne Maurer

    I just had to read your review as the title reminds me of another one. 😉 Mind you, that wasn’t cozy. Still, thanks for this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for reading! I love a good cozy mystery pun title.


      1. Marianne Maurer Avatar
        Marianne Maurer

        So do I. Doesn’t always end up to be a good read but it’s also nice to see the titles and have a chuckle.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Great review. I added this series to my list of books I want to read. I agree that there are so many cozy mysteries that one has to be special, as you have described this one to be, to stand out as different.


    1. Exactly! I still love ones that are a little formulaic. There’s a comfort in the familiar types of settings and characters, but when one comes along that pops a little life into the genre? That’s gold.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Reblogged this on Buried Under Books and commented:
    Completely fresh…now this is a cozy I have to read, I think 😄


  4. this sounds like one i’d like to read –


    1. It’s so good! I cannot recommend it highly enough.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. It really checks off all the boxes. Sounds like fun.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Definitely a ton of fun! This one just felt a little … more grounded than a lot of cozies lately. Very enjoyable.


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